EAST LANSING, Mich. – Ingham County Health Officer Linda S. Vail signed an emergency order on Tuesday that restricts outdoor gatherings to no more than 25 people in the city of East Lansing amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The state of Michigan currently restricts indoor public gatherings to 10 people and outdoor gatherings to 100 people under Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s executive orders.
Vail’s new emergency order is specific to East Lansing -- which is home to thousands of college students who attend Michigan State University (MSU).
Officials say the emergency order is in effect between the northern edge of MSU’s campus to Burcham Drive, bounded by Harrison Road to the west and Hagadorn Road to the east. The emergency order also includes properties adjacent to those streets.
The Ingham County Health Department says that the region affected by the order was identified based on the “frequency of noise ordinance violations historically occurring in the area due to large house parties.” The identified region is largely occupied by MSU students who live off-campus.
“Large social gatherings can easily become super-spreading events and fuel the coronavirus pandemic,” Vail said. “Over the summer, we have seen this happen across the state and even here in our community. We must do everything we can to prevent another large, local outbreak. I urge everyone: wear a mask, practice social distancing, wash your hands, and stay home if you are sick -- please help stop the spread of COVID-19.”
Officials say the following institutions and businesses within the restricted area are exempt from the order, but must comply with the 100-person limit for outdoor gatherings: Schools, childcare organizations, community centers, places of religious worship, farmers markets, restaurants and parks.
East Lansing residents must still comply with the state’s 10-person capacity limit for indoor gatherings.
Those who defy East Lansing’s new emergency order may face a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in prison and/or a $200 fine, officials said.
The new order as recent research shows an increase of COVID-19 cases among Americans aged 20-29 years -- largely due to the reopening of businesses like bars and restaurants, and loosened restrictions on activities. Ingham County officials said Tuesday that people aged 20-29 years account for nearly a third of COVID-19 infections in the county.
“While we are excited to welcome students back to the community, the only way to keep the community safe and our businesses open is to work together to help stop the spread of this virus,” said East Lansing City Manager George Lahanas. “By limiting the size of social gatherings, wearing masks in public spaces and following the other everyday preventative measures that public health officials have recommended, we can stay safe to stay open.”
East Lansing and other parts of Ingham County have seen a number of COVID-19 outbreaks in recent months as the state began to reopen amid the pandemic.
An East Lansing bar, Harper’s Restaurant and Brew Pub, was the site of an outbreak that infected at least 186 people at the end of June and into early July.
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